The Opportunity Costs of Consumption

Call it an off-season new year resolution, if you will, but I’ve been living a new mantra in the last few months: to invest resources instead of consume.

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It’s become criminally easy to consume — whether it’s shiny, new stuff, useless information, or mindless entertainment. After a hard day’s work or study, we vegetate in front of the computer, window (physical or browser) shop and drink that bottle of calorie-laden whatever.

Until recently, I’ve always taken these things as rewards for hard work and never really sat down to consider what my actions stood for and what the opportunity costs were. I did not realize that when I indulge in shoe shopping at or lie on my bed reading 9gag on my iPad on weekday nights, I’m making a conscious decision to enjoy the present at the expense of something else.

Something much, much more important.

Then it dawned upon me that every moment used for mindless consumption could’ve been used for investment. By investment, I mean any activity that paves the way for the future — whether it is having more money for retirement, taking better care of your health or nurturing a more loving, cohesive family.

If you’ve read my blog/tweets/updates before, you’ll know that I am not the biggest fan of the present. I think our current world is plagued by broken economic models and a hopeless sense stagnation, where mankind’s potential is being suppressed for the sake of preserving an increasingly outdated status quo. So I’ve decided to put my money (time and energy) where my mouth is; that means investing my time, energy and money into fixing the future.

Of course, my goal is to eventually help shape society, but for now, I’m investing in myself — my health, my knowledge, my relationships. I don’t believe one can effectively manage the world without first successfully managing the self and the people around you.

It would be great if I could invest every spare resource, but that’s probably not humanly possible. We all need some time to unwind once a while (although, moderation here is key.)

But what’s possible is to become more mindful of how we use our resources.

Over the last few weeks, I have become more and more mindful. I’ve begun to realize how many important things I’ve previously neglected in my life, and how little time I actually have to achieve my aspirations and realize that future I want to see.

Time, money and in some ways, energy, are finite. There are only 24 hours a day, and so much money and energy I have in my reserves. Whatever is used for consumption is forever lost. You can’t ever take it back.

And so, I have chosen to mindfully invest.

What about you? What are you investing in lately?

  • I spend way too much time playing castleville, lol, but I feel like it brings me closer to my husband. Usually I feel depressed if I’m not using my time productively, but he spends so much time playing games, I get resentful if I’m cleaning and he’s on the computer having fun. Since I can’t force him to clean no matter how hard I try, I guess me playing games is the only way to prevent this. Our house isn’t as bad as I would think it would be, but I’d still like to hire a cleaning service.
    I figure, a year or two from now we’ll have a baby and there will be no time for things like castleville, so we should enjoy wasting time while we can.

    • Ivy

      I would probably categorize that as investment rather than consumption — an investment to your relationship (before kids happen). In the end, it all boils down to your values. Is having a clean house more important or having a happy relationship? There’s no right or wrong answer, I think.

      Are cleaning services expensive over there? They’re pretty affordable in Singapore. It has saved me so much time and effort!!